In the first blog of a new year it’s traditional to have a look back at the year that came before, and take a look forward at the year ahead – so I’m going to start off with a quick word about November’s Conference and Exhibition. It has become one of the biggest honours in a CIBSE President’s term to preside over the yearly Conference, where we get to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge, experience and innovation within the ranks of the building services engineering community, and this year’s was the biggest and most exciting that I have attended.
Naturally, Building Performance was the focus of the event (it’s in the name after all!) and the issue of how we can create new buildings and reform existing ones in order to make them kinder to the environment and their occupants was a thread that ran through every single presentation, speech and CPD session. But that got me thinking – with so much information and research available on the issue of Building Performance, how can we help to balance the priorities of the many different facets of the performance issue?
|Location, size of business and budget can all be major factors |
in setting sustainability priorities
Stripped down to its basic parts, the job of a designer is to:
• Maintain expected levels of temperature, lighting, fresh air etc.
• Have low initial cost
• Have acceptable lifetime and flexibility for re-use and end-of-life requirements
• Have low running costs, including energy costs
• Have low resource use and impact including energy-related emissions
• Have happy and productive occupants
• Have good engagement/effect on the immediate and wider community
Unfortunately there is no ‘silver bullet’ that will allow us to achieve all these aims with a single action, and for a long time the energy issue was king, tied in with the carbon that creating that energy generates. Most of our focus was in reducing energy usage in order to cut associated greenhouse gas emissions, but this rather one-eyed approach lead to issues of its own around comfort and cost. Sustainability began to take hold as a new ultimate goal – creating buildings that were not just energy efficient, but more sustainable in business and environmental terms. Recently the issue of occupant well-being has also come to the fore.
|Occupant well-being is increasingly seen as a priority on par with efficiency|
|Buildings under construction now will determine carbon |
emissions in 50 years time
So what is our role in this, as individual engineers and as an Institution? As experts it is up to us to guide clients towards the best solutions for them, in order to help them achieve their goals, whether that is to increase wellbeing, lower energy costs or carbon emissions. Clients will look to us for guidance on the dizzying range of options and priorities out there, and it is up to us to make sense of what our own priorities are, and to equip ourselves with the right skills and resources to help most effectively.
There is a huge opportunity in front of us, this year and beyond, to drive positive changes in the built environment. But in order to grasp it, we as professionals - and together as an Institution - need to be clear what the priorities are, and how alignment with our clients’ natural priorities can best be achieved.